The Roar Sessions Has a New Address & You’re Invited

resized-just-moved
Were you forlorn this morning, looking for a new Roar Sessions post and wondering why there wasn’t one?

No?

Well! Whether you noticed it or not, The Roar Sessions has moved into its own place — and you’re invited to come on over.

That’s right. In case you missed it, this weekly series that has grown dear to my heart — and maybe yours — now has its very own website. And today’s post is as powerful as they come.

“23 years since they said this. You can’t come back. Someone has to leave and they’ve been here longer and he is our pastor, so you have to leave. But hey, we are paying for eight counseling sessions for you and we wish you all the best, now leave, please, but let us pray for you before you go, and we really hope you will be okay. We feel so very sorry for you, and you really need help, but we can’t be the ones to help you because we have others who are more important than you to help. Go on now, troubled young woman. Leave. Let us get on with the Lord’s work, we don’t need women like you in our midst. You might rub off on us. And besides, didn’t you know it is really all your fault?” – from “Silent Roar” by Anonymous, this week’s guest

In addition to continuing to publish guest posts every Monday by kick-ass, courageous women of diverse backgrounds and experiences, there are few other pages for you to check out:

  1. A complete archive since the series’ inception on June 7, 2015.
  2. submissions page.
  3. Sponsorship opportunities, because writing “for the exposure” is passé and we deserve more.

As always, this space will continue to be home to my “Art of” Series, poems and other rambling posts, dates and details about all of my writing groups, and opportunities to keep growing as a writer and human through individual coaching sessions.

Thank you for being part of the first year of The Roar Sessions here on my blog — and for hopping over to follow the new site.

See you in all the places!

Happy Birthday to The Roar Sessions

Roar-Sessions-First-Birthday

Psssst!

The Roar Sessions is coming up on its first birthday!

To celebrate, I’ve given this weekly series a room of its own on the internets.

Thank you, thank you, to each and every contributor and reader who has breathed life into what began with a single post one year ago this week.

Please be sure to “follow” the new site if you enjoy receiving Roar posts in your inbox.

Come on over!

The Roar Sessions: Adina Giannelli

Adina_BarForgoing the Law and Finding Freedom
by Adina Giannelli

When I enrolled in law school, against my better judgment and the advice of wise and thoughtful guides, I had no idea what I was in for. Or maybe I did.

A year before, as I gathered references from my favorite teachers, all writers, memoirists, and literature professors, they blanched.

You should apply to MFA programs, Adina, my erstwhile mentor Maddy counseled over her reading glasses. I see what you’re doing. I don’t think this is the thing.

We chatted about the utility of an MFA and whether I had it in me to handle the particulars of a writing life, the cycle of rejection and defeat, the challenges, economic and otherwise.

Another mentor, an ebullient vildechaye, was more direct in her admonishment.

This is a MAJOR mistake! I’ll write you a reference, I can’t NOT, but you really shouldn’t do it.

When I reminded her that she, too, had gone to law school, she shook her head.

I went to law school because I had writer’s block, Adina! I had to go to therapy. Every. Single. Day! You should study litature, she said, her pronunciation a throwback to a midcentury Jewish American vernacular.

I never studied literature—I mean, except for your classes, I conceded. The truth, which I couldn’t access at the time, was simple. I was afraid.

You are meant to be in a PhD program in litature, Adina—my G-d! she said, melodramatically clutching at the chai around her neck, holding onto that small goatlike Hebrew letter for life.

*

A person with more self-awareness and a stronger backbone and less fear than I had at 19 or 23 or 25 would have not gone to law school at all. A slightly less witless person might have done with my friend Samantha did, which was enroll, show up, and quit on day one. But law school was respectable, and it was something to do, and I thought I could fight my better judgment and shrug off whatever shred of self-knowledge I harbored. I always did what I’d always been told, in educational contexts, until I couldn’t, and this was very much a square peg/round hole situation, but I labored through.

In my last year of law school, though, against all reason, I fell inexplicably pregnant, and organized myself accordingly. I was scheduled to finish my studies in May; the baby was due in June; I’d take the bar in July.

Maybe you should think about rescheduling the bar exam, my midwife urged.

The bar will be there next year, my adored law school professor Lauren promised.

After some measure of reflection I decided that they were right.

The bar exam would be there the following year—of course.

The baby, however, would not.

*

Talya was born inexplicably small, precipitously tiny, her size a mystery and a riddle and an augury. Before I knew that, before I knew that this girl would be born at four pounds and chronically unsettled, I knew I could not leave a newborn to sit for a two-day examination I never really cared about. So with the clarity and wisdom and berth of a woman nearly nine months pregnant—and pathologically ambivalent about the practice of law, besides—I decided to postpone the test. We would all carry on as scheduled, I with the baby, and the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners might miss my $815, but the bar would go on.

True to expectation, the bar exam rolled along as scheduled. But the day my law school colleagues sat for the bar exam was the day my firstborn child died.

I was never the sort of person who relied on signs but if ever there was a message from the universe, this was a sure one: I should not be a lawyer.

And so for years I carried on accordingly. I coped, or didn’t. I tried, and didn’t. In some respects, I thrived, and in most measures, I functioned, but I was more than a little unmoored. Through it all, the loss resounded. I felt many things and I felt almost nothing, but mostly I felt like a strange sort of mourning beach, the grief washing back and forth over me like a tide.

On the professional front, the lawyering front, I hedged. I learned, through various internships and clerkships in and after law school, that I was highly effective at executing the responsibilities associated with legal work, but not temperamentally suited to the practice of law. I thrive under pressure, and love it when the stakes are high.

A close friend and amateur astrologer once told me that I was well suited to four and only four occupational categories: teacher, writer, therapist, and deputy. You are strongest when second in command, she promised. You give excellent advice, but always think that more information is coming, and don’t want to be the one charged with the final decision. I put little stock in astrology, but clung to this comment as a dictate. Even at the bottom of an organizational hierarchy, a lawyer is never second-in-command. The idea of being responsible for someone’s legal outcomes left me sleepless and stressed out beyond measure.

I recognized late what I hadn’t ever been brave enough to name: I was curious about the law, I loved studying the law and excelled at research and administration and teaching undergraduate students about the law, but I hadn’t ever wanted to be a lawyer. I went to law school because it was something to do, because my mind had intellectual questions that could not be answered in a seminar or a laboratory or a workshop, and I thought I wasn’t made for those places, either. I went to law school because after my mentors said don’t I earned a full scholarship and before that a long line of people who didn’t really know me or lawyering told me I should be a lawyer. After all, I was good at reading and good at reasoning and good at arguing, the imagined big three of a lawyer’s life. But it wasn’t what I wanted. It was someone else’s dream, and I was good, too, at other people’s dreams.

Still, even at the point of peak engagement in the legal world, I never intended to practice, and so completing the bar was not a test of my legal knowledge or an opportunity to prove my acumen. You worked so hard, my grandmother chided me, each time the bar exam came up. How hard I worked is an open question, but the fact is, I already earned the degree. I didn’t need to take the bar to validate the many hours of effort and time that went into law school.

Eventually, though, I realized: I did need to take the bar. But for me, the exam was a different sort of trial. The process was unceremonious; the failure, practically preordained.

Now, I wouldn’t have minded if I passed, however unlikely that outcome. It was clear to me that passage was nearly impossible, given that I’d been out of law school for six years and had barely cracked open my study materials. I’m not proud of that, either, but it’s real. I lacked inclination; I lacked time. In the months leading up to the bar exam, I was running an organization; single parenting a small child; teaching three undergraduate courses; pretending to be a full-time graduate student, and dealing with the residual trauma of the recent and horrific murder of my partner’s ex. So I was a little preoccupied. Some say that because of the symbolic and material significance of the date, the exam itself would traumatize. Probably all true. But I’m not sure I would have passed even if circumstances were different—if I’d done the requisite two months of solitary 10-12 hour days—no job, no child, no graduate school, no trauma. And I’m not sure I would have cared.

If I passed, I won, but if I failed I was equally victorious. True to my mentors’ protestations, I never fully belonged in the legal world. And the trauma of my daughter’s death compounded that feeling, heightened my sense of disjuncture and cemented the belief that I should not practice law. And so taking the bar was never about passing the bar, and it was never about validating my self-concept or measuring my sense of worth.

The bar was about being stuck someplace for five and a half years, clawing and scratching and scrounging up the wherewithal to move out and through and beyond it. And I did.

So when I looked around the room at the end of the final day, and saw people, anxious in their anticipation and fear of an adverse outcome, I was outside once more. For me, it was another experience entirely.

When I walked through that auditorium door at the close of the examination, what I felt was not fear or pride, anticipation or longing, or, even, to my great surprise, grief at the death of my long-gone daughter. The bar for me was not the start of a chapter but the closing of a book. I left that exam feeling lighter than I’d felt in a very long time. I had made it through, as surely as I’d been stuck. The victory was quiet, my roar also inaudible. There were no accolades, no job offers, no awards for leaving the law behind. And a literary path was sure to be pocked with different kinds of challenges. But I had crossed a threshold. And what I felt on the other side was an inexorable freedom.

**

Adina GiannelliAdina Giannelli is a writer and teacher whose essays have appeared in publications including Role Reboot, Salon, and The Washington Post. You can find her online at her www.adinagiannelli.com, and you can call her Adi.

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The Roar Sessions is a weekly series featuring original guest posts by women of diverse backgrounds and voices. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in these guest posts belong to each author own and do not necessarily reflect my own. All Roar Sessions content, including photos, belongs to the respective contributors. Read them all.  

The Roar Sessions: Melissa Uchiyama

Melissa1Howl, Scream, Speak: The Voice of a Mama
by Melissa Uchiyama

Those dreams used to wake me–the ones where No Voice would come out in the midst of danger. An attacker would grab me and nothing could come from my throat. Not a squelch or scream. Just paralyzed air.

Perhaps more haunting than the feeling of powerlessness, the “No Voice” feeling, a vacuum, was the question of “if in a real situation, away from the dream world, would I be just as voiceless? Is this how it would play out?”

I have found my voice over the years and it has come as a mama bear. There aren’t any more dreams in which I’m silenced. In the instances that I felt an injustice affecting my kids, I learned to speak. I became a wolf, if even over the right to sit on the train’s designated seats. My fatigue and the danger of standing would affect my baby growing inside. I’ve asked people to step aside so I could sit and nurse my child. My bubbling anger at looking at someone hurting my child on a the mulchy playground is funneled into voice, my voice.

Days of shy, “suck it up and carry on” thoughts are pretty much gone. Instead, I learned to raise a mother wolf from my tongue. I fight for my clan. (I think hunting for bugs helps develop this. We all need to know we can kick ass, in whatever form).

Melissa2
I don’t stay hungry, all starved for sugar in my blood. I speak up for a snack, for fortified bread, not meekly waiting for someone else to suggest it. We go to sleep and it is me who goes around locking and double locking doors. And now, 36 weeks pregnant with my third baby cub, I know my voice works. It has range and depth. It is piercing and carries weight to make the waves to speed-up change– because it is more than about me.

Tonight, after our meal and just before our shower, my son shrieks. He is on the fifth stair and suddenly flies down, running at me with terror. He is a trail of high-pitched screams and as I grab him, I look up the stairs. Intruder? Some man in the hallway, just outside of their rooms? And then I see the twitching of amber, the disgusting orb of a cockroach body. And freaking huge wings. I scream. My boy and his sister scream. “Stay here, in the kitchen!” I warn. “Stay down! Stay down!” I am army sergeant, commander of a mission. Their little heads keep bobbing up, over the sink, frightened, disgusted, and a bit excited.

“It’s too gross!” and yet I steel myself for battle, rifling through the drawer under the kitchen sink. Sponges, tidying spray, paper towels. Why did I remove the roach spray? I choose a heavy roll of aluminum foil, the cheaper, off-brand variety. This will be my ammo.

I think the voice we use to kill the bugs, the gross things that dare come out of the dark and threaten our peace, our cleanliness, is who we are, the determiner of what we can truly summon and muster up. It is the one we whip out to fight right in our homes, where light meets dark. Where we have home team advantage and enough gall to do the job, when we are our most awake, senses strong. My roll of foil might as well be a lance or double-edged sword, or even some black glock. I temper my words, but it is the hunting and vowing of “die, fucker!” that weaves its tone and promise into any made-for-kids-words. We all know this is the voice to use now. This is the time we all curl our mouths and brows into snarls. My little wolves.

The creature speedily scuttles its way down the steps and onto the floor, past us screamers and under the vacuum where it rests as if for Gatorade. My kids, while yelling, huddle in tights hugs and big sister cradles her brother’s head, chanting, “I’ll protect you.”

This crap when I am in the final weeks of nesting. This is the place to raise kids, to raise hopes and strength! Instead, we are dealing with this crap beetle. I am pregnant, even more nauseous now, and fighting for our lives. “You know I love God’s creatures, all nature, but not this guy. I don’t think roaches and palmetto bugs are good or healthy for our home or for us,” I explain, resting my battle cry for the voice that is but a touch more Rachel Carlson. Hey, it’s not my fault he wheedled his way into our habitat and onto our stairs.

Kids get it, too. We rally. They cheer me on, offer other fairly innocuous spray bottles as weapons, and stick out their tongues. They spit, too. Pretend to punch it from four feet away.

After two missed tries, I finally fling the tube of wrap at the beast and boom. The assailant is stopped, but still, his long antennae and two-inch long leg kicks out, kicking, kicking. What an asshole. What nerve, sneaking into our home and delaying our shower time. I would have left him for my husband to clean up, but for my daughter’s final cheering.

“You are a strong and brave woman. You don’t need to leave it for Daddy. Just finish the job, Mom!” All this from my five-year-old. Of course, now I have to stay, make sure he is dead dead and gather up the body, too. It is the kitchen alcohol spray I employ to finally stop his freaking kicky-leg. Finally, with their encouragement, I scoop it up with paper towels and drown him in the bottom of a plastic bag, then out of the house, flung to the curb. I am the woman of this house. I get the job done, voice intact.

Hours later, I spot another guy, one of his buddies, and have to scream and scream for my husband to pause Game of Thrones and kill this other fucker. (It’s this early summer, torrential rain inviting them in. Our house is not normally reeking of this much seedy nature).

I have to make my husband get up quick, quick, before he hides and is gone forever in the hidden corners and recesses in our walls. “Promise me! Make a vow that you will get them all! Please!” I want to hear his aim, that he will do what it takes to protect us from skittering scum and these nasty blokes that can survive even nuclear fallout. I want to hear what he will do. I need his voice, rising to declare all kinds of vows as if from the very show he’s watching.

He should even use an accent, really get me believing, because I am supposed to be nesting! I need a clean space and instead, I am crushing and flinging and wailing, “Get out!” and “Die, already, jerk!”  and of course, way worse. I practice and remember my voice in such instances, loud and powerful, good for advocating, weeding crap out, and cheering for my crew.

My kids gird me on with their voices, too, and together, we see strength. Our bodies, our whole beings are called to attention. They see me as a fighter, to whatever and whoever encroaches on our space, if even a silly beetle. They hear my voice and know I can fight for them, too, wrestle with bigger lions–even with the occasional curse. That has to be fine, I think. Let them see strength. Let them hear my voice as I howl and protect

**

melissa4Melissa Uchiyama is a teacher, mama, and writer, living in the megacity of Tokyo.  She has led young writers in sensory-based food and travel writing workshops and teaches in a young women’s Japanese middle and high school. Currently, she awaits the birth of her third child and wonders how much of her writing and thinking brain will be rendered as mush, imminently.

Her essays can be found on sites such as Brain, Child, in Mamalode, Literary Mama, Cargo Literary Journal, and Kveller. Melissa also has one essay published in the poignant anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness. Connect with Melissa on her blog, Melibelle in Tokyo. You can also find her on Instagram and on Facebook.

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The Roar Sessions is a weekly series featuring original guest posts by women of diverse backgrounds and voices. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in these guest posts belong to each author own and do not necessarily reflect my own. All Roar Sessions content, including photos, belongs to the respective contributors. Read them all.  

The Roar Sessions: Marian Kent

Using My Words 
by Marian Kent

Marian Poetry!

“Help Me, Erica Jong”

Yesterday,
my name was Snidely Green.
Today, it’s Guardedly Optimistic:
Requiring External Validation.
My real name is Mama, Mama, Mama!
Tomorrow, it will be
Bellowing My Poems From That Rooftop.
My secret name
is Tender Roots
Quaking
Toward a Half-Century
and Wondering
How I Got Here.

Nearly twenty years ago now, before love, before family, before most of what is now, I found myself shut down and not accessing my true self. I wasn’t aware of it. I was just going along.

Occasionally I would experience a lucid moment in which the real me came to the surface, and meeting resistance from those closest to me, I would push those thoughts back down. Usually with a note to self like this is the path I’ve chosen or I signed up for this and it will be this way forever.

Still in my young thirties, I was flat-lined, plateaued, in a trance. Sighed and kept going.

I had dumbed myself down and mostly numbed myself as well.

The spell was broken one night while I was driving home from work. Michael Chabon was being interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. As I drove and listened, I was completely blown out of my complacency.

Here was my favorite novelist, talking in the exact same way he writes, smart, funny, passionate, articulate, and with LOTS OF BIG AND WONDERFUL WORDS. Like, this guy does NOT DUMB DOWN. Not at all.

I had read all of Chabon’s books, including The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a truly fantastic, beautiful, and challenging work about which he was being interviewed. But it was Michael Chabon’s voice, his spoken words, just talking, answering questions about his book and his life, that reached me. I remember sitting there in my driveway as the interview ended, considering what in the hell I would do next.

Hearing that interview set in motion a series of events over the following months that upended everything I knew and completely changed my life’s path. For the zillion-times-over better.

What I am so grateful to have learned from Michael Chabon, or what, really, he reminded me, is that It Is Important To Use Your Words. To speak truth to power, if you will. Don’t dumb down or squelch yourself, not for anyone.

I remembered the quote from Audre Lorde taped to my refrigerator but not actually seen in a long, long time: I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.

Fast forward to May 2016. May is my birth month, and this month, I turn fifty years old. Fifty! What?

This year, I was privileged to attend a Michael Chabon reading, and to thank him and present him with copies of my books. And with a bit of tremor in my hands,

I’m learning
how words are magical
how writing them down
gives me superpowers
how reciting them aloud
makes the flush rise
from my core to my face
as a woman perched
on a folding chair
watches my lips
words
breath
intoning verse
I know by heart
by read from the page
just to be safe

(“With a Bit of Tremor in My Hands” from Heart Container)

Even approaching fifty, sometimes I still require reminding. Sometimes I revert to my lucid incantation: I will use my words. I will use my words. I will

Write the moon and the stars
and meditation variations
write the songs of horseflies
on compost butterflies lighting
the reediest mullein spike out
back write hope
write the rings
in your maple tree stones skipped
across open water
or hurled in anger
write protest
write songs
rhymes marching shouting cracking
frustrated tears voices
cracking the sidewalk
cracking buckling splitting wide
engulfing voices in awful arrogance
demanding averting but still
but still
you must write it all down
write
it
down
write the abstract crazy
the real of it all
the blood the beaten down how
can this be
the shot how many times of it all

(“Shot in the Back” from Heart Container)

Yes, I must remember to use my words. Because now the stakes are incredibly high. My children are watching.

My notebook falls open
to a page of ballpoint pen drawings
by my son, who had been sitting
on a curb waiting for a parade.
My own scratchings scarce, inspiration
is welcome when it surfaces.
Who could fail to be moved
by his steady requirement to draw now,
on this curb, on a restaurant placement,
a napkin if that’s all there is?
(Put this in your purse, Mama.)
My children remember the admonishment
of an artist to never stop drawing,
evoking this advice constantly
and with reverence, as though told
from on high instead of under a tent
at the Westhampton Fall Festival.
Obviously, this is a good thing,
a lucky thing, a moment’s one-off words
etched deep in the psyche of youth,
the notebook that is life’s pleasure,
treasure a mother hopes
will be unearthed over and over,
the mind’s riches providing sustenance
for a lifetime of waiting on parades.

(“Waiting on Parades” from Heart Container)

**

Marian_Kent1Purveyor of pretty words and superheroic verse Marian Kent lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts with her husband and two children. Her third full-length poetry collection, Heart Container, was recently released by ALL CAPS PUBLISHING.

Marian’s earlier collections are SUPERPOWERS or: More Poems About Flying (2013) and Responsive Pleading (2012). You can find a great quantity of Marian’s poetry and other missives at her website: www.runawaysentence.com.

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The Roar Sessions is a weekly series featuring original guest posts by women of diverse backgrounds and voices. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in these guest posts belong to each author own and do not necessarily reflect my own. All Roar Sessions content, including photos, belongs to the respective contributors. Read them all.